Today at the White House bipartisan health care summit, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to argue against the Democratic majority using reconciliation to pass health care reform. He first claimed to be an anti-reconciliation champion, falsely equating the “nuclear option” to pass judicial nominees (which he opposed in 2005) with reconciliation in general.
He then admitted that reconciliation has been used in the past, but “never before” for something as costly has health care and that using it now would all but ruin the U.S. Senate as an institution and “harm the future of our country”:
MCCAIN: The last time when there was a proposal that we Republicans in the majority would adopt a 51 vote majority on the issue of the confirmation of judges. There was a group of us that got together and said no that’s not the right way to go because that could deal a fatal blow to the unique aspect of the United States Senate which is a 60 vote majority. And we came to an agreement and it was brought to a halt.
If a 51 vote reconciliation is enacted on one-sixth of our gross national product. Never before has there been –- there’s been reconciliation but not at the level of an issue of this magnitude and I think I could harm the future of our country and our institution which I loved a great deal for a long, long time.
First, the “nuclear option” McCain referred to is not synonymous with “reconciliation” in general. It is the latest dishonest GOP talking point simply meant to derail health care reform.
Second, and most hypocritical, McCain himself has previously supported using reconciliation to pass major legislation and just last year, conceded that the GOP has no case in arguing against its use:
MCCAIN: I fully recognize that Republicans have in the past engaged in using reconciliation to further the party’s agenda. I wish it had not been done then, and I hope it will not be done now that the groundwork has been laid.
Not only has reconciliation been used on countless occasions in the past, it’s simply not true that “never before” has it been used on legislation as big as the Senate’s $900 billion health care bill. The GOP majority used reconciliation to pass President Bush’s tax cuts, which have so far cost the federal government nearly $2 trillion and continue to add to the deficit. The CBO, meanwhile, said that the Senate’s health care bill yields “a net reduction in federal deficits of $132 billion” over 10 years. PolitiFact.com noted that it’s “probably true” that Bush’s tax cuts cost more than the Senate’s health care bill.
Moreover, NPR noted recently that “for 30 years, major changes in health care laws have passed via the budget reconciliation process.”